Le’Veon Bell

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The stalemate between the Pittsburgh Steelers and franchise running back Le’Veon Bell continues with no signs of progress. Bell has yet to sign his one-year franchise tender worth a cool $12.1 million dollars. From the looks of things, the mercurial all-purpose running back seems willing to bet on himself in hopes of securing a fat, long-term deal in free agency next summer.

According to numerous reports, the Steelers are willing to make the 25-year old Bell the richest running back in the league with a deal averaging $10 million per year. Bell wants more in the ballpark of what he’ll make this year, per year. Which side will budge first?

The answer will come by Monday, July 17. That date is the deadline for the Steelers to lock Bell into a long-term contract. If the deal does not get done, the franchise tender goes into effect and both sides would have to do this contract dance again next season. If the Steelers decide to franchise Bell for a second year, it would be at a 20% pay raise so Bell would make over $14 million. If not, he will enter the market as an unrestricted free agent.

Without a signed deal in place, Bell can wait until a few days before the start of the regular season to appear and still get paid in full. What player wouldn’t love the idea of skipping all of training camp knowing they won’t get fined? He has yet to appear at any team function while the contract game of chicken plays out.

From the Steelers standpoint, they have reason to be cautious. Bell has an injury history that can’t be ignored. He has only played a full 16 games only once in his four seasons. Ankle injuries have kept him off the field on numerous occasions. A groin injury occurred at the most inopportune time, in the midst of their playoff run, last season. The now surgically-repaired groin is reportedly back to full strength.

They are also taking note of the pounding he’s already taken. Bell has already logged 908 carries and 227 receptions in his short career. Given the shelf life for an NFL running back is averaging a paltry 3.1 years, could this be the beginning of Bells’ decline? Lest we forget he has had two violations of the NFL Substance Abuse policy, the latest indiscretion cost him the first three games of the 2016-17 season.

From Bells’ standpoint, the numbers don’t lie. Over 1100 touches have accounted for over 4,000 yards rushing and over 2,000 yards receiving and 31 touchdowns. Two-time Pro Bowler. Two-time All-Pro. He is clearly one of the top five running backs in the league and he deserves to be paid as such.

We’ll see who wins this tug-of-war soon enough but whose side are you on? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The Greg One

 

 

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On Thursday the news broke that the Oakland Raiders had made their quarterback, Derek Carr, the highest-paid player in NFL history. The new deal is for five years and $125 million, a cool $25 million dollars per season. Carr will receive $40 million guaranteed at signing and $69 million guaranteed over the first three years of the deal.

The deal is a huge leap of faith for the Raiders but they feel they finally have their franchise quarterback in the fold. Quarterback has been the most glaring weakness of this team for almost two decades. The last time they had anyone that could be considered franchise quarterback quality would have been the Rich Gannon years from 1999-2004.

Carr is coming off of a breakout season in 2016 in which Oakland went 12-4. In his three seasons as Raiders quarterback, Carr has a 22-26 win-loss record and is barely over a 2.5-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 81 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.

Now the league will be watching to see if Clast season was a fluke or if he truly is ascending to the elite level of NFL quarterbacks. He is certainly paid as if he is elite. To their credit, the Raiders have built a championship-caliber defense. The offense is taking shape with Carr, standout wide receiver Amari Cooper, veteran wideout Michael Crabtree and blossoming tight end Clive Walford as an impressive assortment of weapons for Carr. Add the newest addition in legendary running back Marshawn Lynch to bolster the running attack and you have a scary unit, at least on paper.

While Carr is the richest player in the league at the moment, it won’t last long. Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are all in line for raises next offseason. Skill position players such as Le’Veon Bell and Odell Beckham Jr. will also be looking for mega-millions sooner than later.

What do you think? Was the the right move for the Raiders? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The Greg One

 

 

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The Chargers have lost four of their first six games. The last two losses came at the very end of the game. The Bolts did what they needed to win three of the four games just to end up losing.

Before getting into this season, let’s look at another season that they were really good at losing.

The 2000 season!

Yes, that was the year that the Chargers went 1-15. San Diego had a horrible offense and a solid defense. The offense was “led” by Ryan Leaf, Jim Harbaugh and Moses Moreno (oh yeah, that guy). Not exactly a high-quality trio of quarterbacks. They were unable to secure wins, partially due to 30 interceptions, 53 sacks of the team’s quarterbacks, eight missed field goals and only 31 touchdowns scored.

The defense, led by the great Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison, kept them in the games with a total of 16 interceptions, 39 sacks and four touchdowns.

The Bolts had three blowouts that year, but they were never shut out. In fact, nine of their 15 losses were by 10 points or less. An even crazier stat, six of their losses were by three points or less. Let that sink in!

So here we are in 2015, and the Bolts are pretty much the exact opposite of the 2000 Chargers. They have a great passing offense, which is ranked 1st in the NFL, led by Philip Rivers and his 2,116 passing yards. While it is great that the Chargers rank first in total offense and in passing yards, they are ranked 29th in rushing. The offense is just not balanced with the lack of a good running game. Being balanced is more important than passing for a lot of yards.

The defense is also unbalanced. They have shown some good plays but also some stuff that has Chargers fans throwing their arms in the air in anger. They are ranked 14th overall thanks to their pass defense, which is ranked 7th. The rush defense, on the other hand, is ranked 29th.

So as you can see, they can’t run the ball on offense, and they can’t stop the run on defense.

The second game of the season against the Bengals was the first game of the year that the Chargers “did a good job of losing.” Keenan Allen muffed the punt return on the Bolts’ first drive which lead to a Bengals’ touchdown. Down 7-3 in the 1st quarter, the Chargers recover a fumble by running back Jeremy Hill just to have Rivers fumble the ball on 3rd and 2.

Two more opportunities were given to the Chargers with a missed field goal by Bengals’ kicker Mike Nugent and another fumble by Hill. San Diego answered those opportunities with a field goal and a missed field goal. In typical Rivers’ fashion, Philip threw 20 straight completions in an attempt to take the lead and the win. Down 19 to 24 and 1:09 left on the clock, No. 17 threw an interception to end the game in a loss.

The Chargers got beat fair and square by the Vikings, so there is no need to look at that game as a missed opportunity to secure a win. They deserved every second of that beating in Week 3.

In Week 5, the Chargers hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was out with a knee injury and Chargers’ tight end Antonio Gates was back after a four-game suspension. The Bolts came out strong, scoring a touchdown to No. 85 on their first drive in under three minutes.

The first half ended up being a little boring, as the Chargers kept a small lead of 7-3.

The pass defense kept back-up quarterback Michael Vick one-dimensional and the rush defense was able to keep them out of the end zone in the first three quarters.

A pick-six by Antwon Blake put the Steelers ahead and the home team answered with a field goal to tie the game.  The 4th quarter came and the Bolts took at an early lead with another touchdown to Gates.

Vick was having a terrible passing game until his 72-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton once again tied up the contest.

The Chargers then took the lead with a finger-crossing 54-yard field goal by Josh Lambo. The game was put in the hands of the defense with just a little over two minutes left. The defense then allowed them to drive 80 yards. Fans watched is utter disbelief as Le’Veon Bell got the tip of the ball to cross the plane just as the time ran out, giving the Steelers the victory.

Another game that the Bolts should have won but somehow found a way to lose.

The team from America’s finest city traveled to Green Bay in Week 6, making the trip as the underdogs to a 5-0 team led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The first quarter was ugly. The Packers were leading the 17-3 after a 65-yard run by running back James Starks. Rookie running back Melvin Gordon fumbled the ball in that quarter, but the offense was able to recover it and get a field goal.

On the next drive they got into the red zone and went for it on 4th and 3 on the Green Bay 12-yard line; a gutsy move by a usually conservative Mike McCoy. They were unable to score.

A second fumble by Gordon in the second quarter, recovered by Green Bay, put a stop to the Chargers’ running game.

The Air Coryell days were back with Rivers taking to the air, trying to win the game. The Packers had no answers for Rivers’ passing game even with a sketchy offensive line. The Chargers defense did alright, allowing the offense to have 38 minutes of possession and forcing a Packers field goal to make the score 27-20. San Diego’s signal caller was having a hell of a game, carrying the team on his back and once again found the red zone.

The upset of the year was in the making with the Chargers with a first and goal on the Packers three-yard line with only 33 seconds on the clock.  The Packers defense that had allowed Rivers to pass for 503 yards without an interception, stopped the Bolts from getting into the end zone on four downs.

A defeated Rivers laid on the field in disbelief. We would never know if the Chargers could have won the game in overtime. San Diego once again had shown most of the country how to lose in the final seconds of an NFL game.

There are a lot of factors that lead the Chargers to lose games that they could/should have won. Interceptions and fumbles by the offense never help in securing a win, and neither is not gaining points when the defense causes a turnover. Missed field goals, missed tackles and missed opportunities from the defense leave a lotto be desired, negating any positive work done by the offensive side of the ball.

The season is still early, and the Chargers have the easier part of their schedule coming up. If the Bolts can eliminate stupid penalties, turnovers, cause turnovers and find some semblance of a running game, they could win their next five games.

The hearts of the fans are always beating at such a rapid pace at the end of these games.  Save our hearts and secure these wins early.

Thanks for reading.

Go Chargers.

Laura Leech

 

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The Steelers come into San Diego to face the 2-2 Chargers coming off a “gifted” win versus the Browns last Sunday. Here are my three things that need to happen in order for the Bolts to win on Monday night.

1.) Contain Bell and keep Vick in the pocket
This is basically a 1a and 1b point. It’s known that Michael Vick is a shell of his former self athletically, but he is still a threat running the ball. He still has a monster arm and can chuck the ball 60 yards in the air. But the most important part of throwing is still an issue as it has been for his entire career, and that’s his accuracy, or lack thereof. Vick doesn’t have an accurate arm and he will struggle to hit wide-open receivers. Keep him in the pocket and the Chargers defense will be fine; in the passing game that is….

In the running game, Pagano is going to REALLY have to have his best gameplan of the season. Le’Veon Bell is a duel threat (running and catching) and very powerful back. He is a top-three running back in the league and the Chargers’ defense struggles stopping the run. Think of a younger Adrian Peterson (or one versus the 2007 Chargers defense), and I present to you Bell! (Okay, I won’t be that extreme but you get the picture). Keep Bell contained as much as possible and force Vick to try to beat you through the air.

2.) Give Gordon the ball
If you know me well enough, you’ll know that I am very critical of Melvin Gordon. But, he has shown some solid promise. Anything less than 20 touches a game is crazy at this point in the season. The Steelers currently rank in the middle of the pack in run defense (allowing 111.8 yards per game this season). Running the ball is another way to keep Le’Veon Bell away from the ball. McCoy was adamant in the offseason about being a power-running team. When done correctly in 2013, the Chargers were damn near unbeatable. Reich is gonna need to go back to what his predecessor did and run the ball.

3.) Stay healthy!
I know, this is almost a moot point and something the Chargers have no control over. But please, stay healthy. The team is, once again, dealing with multiple centers and linemen. They haven’t had their starting secondary together since Week 1. The Bolts have gotten most of their injured players back at practice this week, which is a good sign. Now they just need to keep them healthy and get it all together at some point.

Thanks for reading.

If you have any other keys to victory for the Chargers, let me know below in the comments.

Go Bolts!

Zak Darman

As the 2014 season came to a closure a few weeks ago, the Chargers organization and personnel are already moving forward and working on the 2015 season. With free agency and the draft approaching, the off-season really isn’t an off-season.

Mike McCoy is busy tweaking playbooks while assisting Tom Telesco with recruiting, finding talent, and preparing for the draft. It is Telesco’s priority to fill positions and replace those that may no longer be in a San Diego uniform next year. The running back position is now under a microscope since one player is already expected to hang up his no. 24 blue and gold jersey as he hits the free agency market. Unfortunately, that player is Ryan Mathews.

You might be asking, “Why does Telesco need to focus more attention to a position that is easy to fill?” Well, it really isn’t that simple to replace an established running back like Mathews. Injury history, age, ability, and how to find a running back are all taken into consideration when searching for a replacement.

Let’s start with free agency. Many NFL running backs are seen as expendable or the term “a dime a dozen”. There is no need to snatch a 30 year-old back who may have only a few years left in the league. Yet, there also isn’t a necessity to sign a 27 year-old with an extensive injury record. Most backs are a two-down player while another player will come on the field for a third-down passing situation. As a general manager, you almost are taking a gamble with cap money to sign a free agent running back. There’s a sense of caveat emptor, which is Latin for “let the buyer beware” when it comes to these situations.

The next is the 2015 NFL draft. Recruiting new talent is one of the most difficult tasks for a general manager. Let’s face it, San Diego needs to address the offensive line first and foremost. You won’t see a running back in the first round this year. Yet again, the draft is a gamble. Whether it be injury or underperformance, drafting a running back doesn’t always work out. For example, Marion Grice was drafted in the sixth round (201 overall) in the 2014 draft, but ended up not making the 53-man roster and was signed to the practice squad. It was Branden Oliver, undrafted rookie out of Buffalo, which earned a spot. Over 100 players give up college eligibility to enter the draft, yet almost 40% go undrafted.

Yes, famous backs such as Priest Holmes, Arian Foster, and Joe Perry went undrafted, but finding them is like finding a needle in a haystack; unlikely. Now, imagine drafting a running back in the third or fourth round, only to end up as a disappointment. Finding and selecting the right player isn’t as easy as you may have thought.

Moving forward, the Bolts are looking for a specific set of skills. First contact effectiveness, open-field quickness, and an eye for open holes are all needed in San Diego. Have ever watched Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell? He has a special talent that allows him to break tackles and gain extra yardage even after contact. Seattle Seahawk’s Marshawn Lynch’s open-field speed landed him most recently a 67-yard touchdown run against the Arizona Cardinals stout defense. A player with all these abilities is needed in America’s finest city next season.

Ryan Mathews was a first round pick in the 2010 NFL draft but has suffered unfortunate injuries which has kept him sidelined through-out his career. He knows the system and knows how to play, but the team may be ready to part ways with the Pro Bowler. Replacing him won’t be easy and Telesco is already preparing for a brute running back that can be utilized effectively in third-down situations. With three backs on the roster already, there is absolutely no room for error when finding the right guy. I am no genie or fortune teller, but I do know the Chargers are ready for a powerhouse running back to make some noise.

 

Briana Soltis

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As the NFL becomes more and more of a quarterback driven league, the running phase of the game is something that is being put on the back burner.  This is becoming evident in drafts as we see, aside from some of the elite prospects, promising running backs go lower and lower as each year goes by.  What I bring to you is a prospect who will go far later than his talent suggests, but not late enough for Chargers to snag him.  I am speaking of Michigan State tailback, Le’Veon Bell.

Measurables  

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 230 lbs

40 Yard Dash: 4.60 seconds

Bench Press (225 lbs): 24 Reps

3 Cone Drill: 6.75 seconds

Analysis 

There is no doubt Bell is one of the most physical backs in the draft.  Though he has a “big bruiser” frame, he plays light on his feet and is able to make a man miss, as well as power through him.  He is patient with the ball when looking for holes to open up and hits them with a great burst of speed.  He pushes piles and is always looking for extra yardage after contact.  Once he reaches the second level, he is no easy tackle.  He is exceptional at making his man miss in the open field which is something incredible for a guy at his size.  He also has good ability to catch out of the backfield.

His biggest flaw may also be his biggest advantage.  Though his big frame allows for him to power through tackles, it makes him a big target and susceptible to tackles at the NFL level.  His average speed won’t allow him to outrun too many people in the pros.  He needs to work on his pass protection and become more adept at finding cutback lanes.

Summary 

Bottom line, I want this guy on my team and I’m sure GM’s are thinking the same thing.  The trend on taking RBs late in the draft will put Bell in the 3-4 range but I will not be surprised if a team jumps the gun and snags him in the late second.  It would be a reach to go out of our needs to grab him with bigger holes still on the table.  Nonetheless, I would be happy to bring this former Spartan to San Diego.  For those who have not had a look at Le’Veon Bell, enjoy.

 

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